This may come as a surprise to you, but I've gone a-hiking in
areas that aren't Scotland. I've gone a-hiking in, for example,
England, and I retain many happy memories of hills and
cathedrals and rustic pubs and pork crackling. Amongst the many
walks I have tackled in that fine land is The Cotswold Way, a
trek full of so many hills that by the time I finished my thigh
muscles were the size of Bath.
During another trek, this time on my way to Cheddar to see the
caves and drink real zoiderr, I found myself in the Mendip
Hills. I vividly recall standing on a hill, adjusting my
underwear and admiring the view, and marveling at how
Glastonbury and its Tor were so prominent in the landscape. I
wrote about it at the time. I quote...
When up on the hills I had views of the strange land to the south and west.
Between where I was and the Bristol Channel was a peculiar mixture of low flat
wetland – vast tracts of long fields only three or four metres above sea level –
and isolated pockets of high ground, like Nyland Hill and Brent Knoll and the
more substantial rise on which sits Wedmore and Cocklake. When water levels were
higher than they are now, these must have been the main areas of human
occupation immediately south of the Mendips, given that they would have been
high and dry and in effect islands. Towns like Glastonbury and its impressive
Tor, sitting smugly above the surrounding land, must have stood out for
miles above this inland extension of the Bristol Channel. Or so I reckon.
It was nice just standing looking out towards the far-off
sea. It had been a misty morning, but now it was starting to clear, and
gradually the white layers were melting to reveal a scene of utter beauty. The
appearance of a large sun directly behind me cast a long shadow that seemed to
stretch as far as Bridgwater Bay. Blue patches of mist drifted here and there in
wooded hollows down below, trying to escape their inevitable fate.
Over to my left, Glastonbury Tor sat upon a moving sea of silk, and
as it caught the full redness of the sun I thought for a moment, I really
thought, that I could make out King Arthur in the sky above.
I was now in Fantasy Mode, and had been transformed into a knight in shining
armour, banners flying, white horse at the ready. Our mission was to make battle
with an evil force that had erupted from the ground at Cheddar. Time was of the
essence. We were to meet with elves, take counsel from a wizard, and join forces
with the Knights of the Holy Grail to banish the blackness. With any luck, we
might even find a damsel in distress along the way.
Standing on this grassy hillside, far from civilisation, my mind even further, I
looked towards the distant horizon and, in a moment that I can’t quite explain,
raised my fist skyward and shouted, ‘All hail Excalibur!’
And just then an elderly man with protruding veins, shorts and running shoes,
carrying a newspaper and a look that said, ‘Bloody tourists,’ jogged slowly by.
‘Morning,’ he said.
‘Morning,’ I replied, adjusted my underwear, and headed off to save the world.
Anyway, I think you get my drift here: very low flat tracts
of land; flooding, etc. It is some of these areas around
Glastonbury that are indeed now back under water. You have
to ask yourself if perhaps a rather big mistake was made
hundreds of years ago when they thought they could turn low
marshy land liable to flood into meaningful agricultural
The English seem to have a peculiar relationship with water
and flooding. During another of my treks, this time in the
area of Ironbridge, I was somewhat amazed to see so many
properties by the River Severn had lines and dates on their
doors to denote the level of flood-water in the past. It was
almost as if they took a curious amount of pleasure in
boasting that such-and-such a year was a bad 'un and the
waters came halfway up their door.
And I recall at the time thinking, 'Why don't they just get
the hell out of there?' I'm still thinking that.